Saturday, March 26, 2011

Harkless Shines At CYP

Team Frenji's Maurice Harkless took off early and appeared skyward-bound as his 6-foot-9 frame soared somewhere between the hardwood and ceiling of the smurf-sized gym in Our Lady Of Mercy in Port Chester.

Harkless, the St. John's-bound senior who has opened up new facets to bolster his all-around game, left jaws littered all over the floor as he crushed home a ferocious one-handed jam.

Port Chester's Anthony Ordonez, playing in his own backyard, drilled a deep 3-pointer (essentially a few inches in front of half court, which indicates how pint-sized this hallowed ground that's hosted a litany of college and NBA legends is) as the Port Chester-based Savages sliced Frenji's lead to six as 4:22 remained in the second quarter.

Then, Team Frenji--a piecemeal core of top-stratum New York City and 914-area players--got loose. They reeled off head-spinning runs and provided the traditional theatrics of this longtime tournament, en route to a 110-87 thrashing of the Savages. The entertainment value of one of the State's longest-existing events keeps folks coming back.

Tevon Sledge, he of the prodigious vertical leap, knifed through a pair of defenders and finished above the rim. Cincy-bound guard Jermaine Sanders navigated traffic on a strong take to the tin.

P.J. Torres, who spent this season proving his Division-I value while subsequently muting critics who called his supposed attitude issues into question, delivered a swift no-look pass to Harkless, who fired in a three-pointer.

Team Frenji, coached by local grass-roots pioneer and player advisor Tom Sampogna, was relentless.

Harkless unleashed an acrobatic layup which fattened their lead to 52-35. Sanders swished a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 20. Then, Harkless electrocuted the crowd with another screaming-loud dunk.

The game that's evolved by leaps-and-bounds will be on display in Jamaica, Queens next season, as Harkless gets his opportunity to get meaningful minutes from the get-go.

He gets the opportunity to keep St. John's basketball in the realm of NCAA relevance following this year's Dwight Hardy/Steve Lavin-led resurgence. The Queens product gets the unique opportunity to be a warrior in his hometown.

Most importantly, Harkless gets it.

"In my opinion, and I'm not an expert by any means, but he's going to be a pro," said Sampogna.

"He's expanded his game and become a threat from beyond the arc. He blocked shots, he got rebounds, he ran the floor. He did a little bit of everything."

Torres authored an epic performance as he erupted for 35 points, ripped down 14 rebounds, and doled out six assists to lift New Rochelle to an 81-67 out-of-league victory over St. Raymond's back in January. The kid dripping with freakish athleticism got in the groove after facilitating the running game in the first half.

"To start off the game I wasn't really in the rythm because I've never played with any of these guys," said Torres.

"Once I got going though, we all started clicking and started to find my teammates for some open looks. It felt good to play in this type of atmosphere with this type of cast...It feels good to add my name to the list of guys that have played here."

Torres, who had whittled a laundry-list of potential hardwood homes down to Duquesne and South Kent prep school in Connecticut, has received some late interest from the College of Charleston and Penn State. The 6-foot-3 off guard remains undecided.